London [UK]: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the United Kingdom accepts that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be allowed to run for re-election in the event of a peace settlement in Syria.
This is a dramatic reversal of the British policy stretching back to the early days of the civil war that the president must go, reports the Guardian.
Speaking on the eve of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s meeting with Donald Trump in Washington, Johnson acknowledged that with the U.S. President taking presidency, all sides need to rethink their approach to Syria.
“It is our view that Bashar al-Assad should go, it’s been our longstanding position. But we are open-minded about how that happens and the timescale on which that happens,” Johnson told the Lords international relations select committee.
“I have to be realistic about how the landscape has changed, and it may be that we will have to think afresh about how we handle this. The old policy, I am afraid to say, does not command much confidence,” he added.
The official Foreign Office view has long been that Assad can stay only for a short period as part of a transitional government. In the days after he was appointed as foreign secretary in July last year, Johnson insisted that Assad had to go.
Johnson said it was crucial that the Trump administration recognised that any deal with Russia on ending the Syrian conflict would also involve accommodating Iran, another key Assad ally.
Johnson also held out the conditional prospect of the UK working with Russia militarily to defeat Islamic State.
The UK has been one of Russia’s strongest critics but, in a change of tone that reflects the new mood in the White House, Johnson said Moscow had to be engaged. “We cannot endlessly push them away and demonise them,” he said. (ANI)